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Dermalog addresses call for investigation, bad press in Philippines


(Around 1 million Philippine citizens already hold a biometric driver’s license. Photo credit: DERMALOG)

Dermalog has faced an intense month in the Philippines after delays in the country’s driver’s license project and calls for investigation into the German biometrics company.

The calls are among the latest issues for the identity solutions provider which has been working with the Philippines’ transportation authority, the Land Transportation Office (LTO), on a new digitalized driver’s license and car registration platform called the Land Transport Management System (LTMS).

The portal is used by Filipinos to apply for a driver’s license or perform other administrative tasks with biometric authentication.

On May 7, a local transportation group called on the government to probe the implementation of the LTMS. Ariel Lim, president of the National Public Transport Coalition (NPTC), urged the government to investigate system glitches and irregularities allegedly caused by the failures of its IT provider Dermalog, Manila Bulletin reports.

“After 14 extensions and two-and-half years delay, Dermalog has yet to deliver in full the integrated system of the IT infrastructure despite substantial payment made by the LTO, amounting to 80 percent of the P3.4 billion ($60.6 million) contract,” says Lim.

The LTMS was awarded to Dermalog and its local partners in 2018 under a joint venture agreement. Lim, however, noted that “more than four years since the December 2018 delivery date, the system is still not fully functional and fully rolled out.”

More bad news came for Dermalog on May 11 when the Philippines transportation office said its backlog in driver’s license cards had reached over 234,000. That same week, Manila Times reported that the company has a poor track record in countries such as Indonesia, Haiti and Angola, citing cases of technical problems, misappropriations of funds and delivery issues.

The report came after Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Agus Widjojo sent a letter in March to Filipino politician Robert Raymond Estrella alleging that Indonesia and several other countries have encountered problems with Dermalog resulting in the termination of its services.

In Indonesia, the Dermalog biometric identification system was used for the Indonesia AFIS by the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Agency. According to the Widjojo, Dermalog’s services were discontinued because its system failed to deliver the requirements of the Indonesian government,.

Dermalog pushed back against the accusations last Saturday, noting that the company holds a “stellar track record of accuracy and reliability in its foreign projects.”

The firm rejected allegations of underperformance and delays in Indonesia, Angola, Haiti, and the Philippines. Addressing the letter from the Indonesian ambassador, Dermalog said that its contract for the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in Indonesia was successfully completed in 2012 and even lead to a subsequent agreement.

The company also denied allegations of contributing to corruption within the transportation office, saying that the system minimizes opportunities for illicit activities. As for delays in the LTMS project, Till Dunkel, project manager at Dermalog, said that the setbacks were due to unsuitable data center infrastructure and COVID-19 impacts.

“The reasons for the delays in the implementation of the LTMS project have been fully explained before the congressional committee on transportation and Commission on Audit (CoA),” says  Dunkel. “Congress and CoA agreed and accepted the 14 extensions and two-and-a-half years delay due to the inadequate structure of the building which serves as the data center and which needed to be renovated. Additionally, the Covid pandemic, work suspension and lockdown all added to further delay in the project.”

In August last year, a transportation office official suggested in a public interview it was dissatisfied with Dermalog’s work on digital infrastructure used in biometric identity verification. The office later walked back the comments.

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